Friday, December 10, 2010

Get Satisfaction: Turning Customer Communities into Bigger Business Benefits

What's the most important thing to your business? Its customers, because without them, your "business" is likely just an expensive hobby. (This is equally true for non-profit organizations, but they serve two groups of "customers," the ultimate consumers of the services the non-profit provides and the people and organizations that fund those services.)
So what's the most important business resource your organization is probably under-leveraging or not measuring, tracking or paying attention to at all? Generally, it's what your customers think and feel about your organization and its offerings. More specifically, it's the engagement and passion of your best and happiest customers.

Those qualities are probably the most effective tools you have for recruiting and acquiring new happy customers. But you absolutely need the best available information about your customers – who's happy and why, who's unhappy and why and everything related to those questions. That information is crucial to your efforts to identify your most positively engaged customers and to leverage and amplify their engagement and passion.

Of course, your organization should already be tracking what customers think and feel, using everything from social media monitoring to periodic proactive outreach NOT intended to sell anything. But how best to go one step beyond, closer to the encouragement and leverage of actual customer communities?

I recommend a close, careful look at Get Satisfaction. Get Satisfaction helps companies to leverage and monetize pervasive, passionate engagement of those companies' customers. (I've run this admitted mouthful past a few Get Satisfaction executives, and they say it captures what they do pretty well, so I'm sticking with it.) It does this via a combination of really cool software and effective, field-proven processes and practices that it makes available to its customers.

Pricing starts at $19 per month for all the tools you need to build and manage a basic community. For $49 per month you can add support for a team of community managers and Facebook integration. At $99 per month you get additional community customization, analytics and Web site integration features. And at $289 per month you can add integration with customer relationship management (CRM), help desk and other systems as well as enhanced support from Get Satisfaction. Free trials and options for full customization and rich branding are available as well.

There are other customer community management and feedback collection solutions out there, to be sure. (Three of them are discussed briefly along with Get Satisfaction in a November 2010 article at However, none that I've seen offers the combination of flexibility, functionality and economy available with Get Satisfaction.

Also, Get Satisfaction's founders, management and corporate culture are, to put it mildly, intently focused on empowering customer-led communities that deliver real, measurable business value. This is reflected in everything I've seen them do, say and deliver so far, and strongly complements the strengths of the company's core offerings.

Your customers are your market. The more you can empower your customers to ask questions, share ideas, provide feedback and form communities, the more you know about what your customers really think and feel. The more such information you have, the better your marketing, sales and customer care efforts can become. If these things matter to you, you should explore Get Satisfaction. Now.

Free Webinar: Synchronicity abounds – Lane Becker, a co-founder of Get Satisfaction, will be the featured speaker in a Webinar entitled "Think Like an Entrepreneur: Lessons for Businesses of All Sizes." It's sponsored by GoToMeeting, another tool you should be using if you're not. I'll be moderating. Should be an interesting and valuable conversation. I hope it will include you.

The live event takes place on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET. It will also be available on demand later, if you can't make the live version. For more information or to register, please go to

Monday, November 15, 2010

Find New Customers – Jeff Ogden of Find New Customers: the Dortch on Marketing 3-Q Interview

Jeff Ogden is a lead and demand generation specialist and  a self-styled "Fearless Competitor." He's also the president of one of the best-named companies I've ever encountered: Find New Customers. But enough of what I think. Here's what Jeff thinks.

Q1: What's the single biggest challenge to companies seeking new customers today –technological, operational or otherwise?

A1: To quote sales expert Jill Konrath, prospects are crazy, busy today. So your messages must adhere to her SNAP approach:
1) Simple - very basic and uncomplicated
2) iNvaluable - focused on their needs and not yours
3) Aligned - don’t talk about A when they care about B. You need to talk about B when they care about B.
4) Priority - You need to focus on what's at the top of their to-do list.

But the interesting thing about this challenge is that solving it requires deep buyer intelligence. Buyer personas are critical today. Deep knowledge leads to finely honed and effective messaging.

Q2: What's the single biggest challenge to companies seeking to sell solutions to companies seeking new customers today -- technological, perceptual or otherwise?

A2: The biggest challenge for companies selling solutions like marketing automation is commoditization. To prospects ears', they all sound alike – Marketo, Eloqua, Silverpop, Pardot. The average business person cannot see a difference. Vendors need to do a better job of demonstrating unique value and ensuring success. Chances are this will come from a different selling approach, rather than a product.

Q3. What's the "next big thing" coming in the continuing search for new customers for which users and vendors should be preparing now?

A3: Buyer empowerment. Vendors will need to become more value oriented and recognize the need to be everywhere (Twitter, Facebook YouTube, iTunes, etc.) with a clear, concise and consistent message.

Dortch's Recommendations

Pay attention to how your buyers buy, whether you're selling marketing automation solutions or anything else. When I look at Jeff's answers collectively, what I take away is that differentiation enhances competitiveness. Oh, and that the only differentiation that matters to buyers is differentiation that demonstrates alignment with buyer goals, needs and priorities.

Be where your buyers are, and pay attention to, capture, aggregate and leverage what they say and what they do. Employ IT-empowered solutions that help you to do these things effectively and consistently. That's how you'll find – and keep – new customers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

IT Analyst and Influencer Relations: the Future – in Only 10 Sentences!

1. Much of what information technology (IT) buyers and users buy and use is heavily influenced by the opinions and analysis of people known collectively as industry analysts (including me, at least sometimes).

2. IT vendors invest significant resources in developing relationships with and attempting to influence the opinions of these analysts, a practice known as "analyst relations" (and sometimes called "influencing the influencers").

3. The Web and social media tools and networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and Twitter make other buyers, other users, vendors and others at least as influential as traditional industry analysts.

4. Traditional analyst relations methods are becoming increasingly ineffective and irrelevant, as the expansion of influencers beyond analysts continues and accelerates.

5. Business success is increasingly less merely "transactional" and far more "social" and "conversational," driven by repeated interactions that build credibility, familiarity and trust.

6. Analyst relations must take a similar evolutionary pathway to succeed, especially as independent analysts, "boutique" analyst firms and the numbers and types of influencers grow.

7. Specifically, vendors must broaden their views of influencers beyond analysts, then build with those influencers the same social and conversational relationships those vendors are adopting with customers and prospects.

8. In addition, vendors must use modern media and improved processes and techniques to evangelize to customers, influencers, partners and prospects – to engage, inform, persuade and invite them to "buy in," sometimes literally.

9. The game has changed, from "analyst relations" to what I'm fancifully calling "social influencer relations (and) evangelism" or "SIRE," because three-letter acronyms (TLAs) are so over.

10. Except for the "SIRE" part, it's not just me saying these things – check out the roundtable podcast featuring Jonny Bentwood, Barbara French, Carter Lusher and Jeremiah Owyang, people you should know if you don't, at, the survey recently conducted by Vocus and Brian Solis at and thoughts from a blog entry of mine featuring PR maven Cheryl Snapp Conner, at

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Real-Life PR -- Snapp Conner PR Founder Cheryl Snapp Conner: The Dortch on Marketing 3-Q Interview

Public Relations -- PR -- is a critical element of every company's marketing strategy. And technological evolutions are roiling PR just like they're roiling almost every other aspect of marketing -- and business.

Cheryl Snapp Conner is one of the smartest, hardest-working and nicest PR people I've met in more than 30 years of dealing with PR people. She's also the founder of Snapp Conner PR, "a specialized agency that provides all aspects of strategic and tactical PR execution for companies in the technology space." I thought she might have some useful thoughts about PR for those of you interested in such things...which should be everyone reading this. She in fact did and does. See below.

Q1: What is the single greatest challenge facing companies seeking publicity -- your clients -- today?
A1: I think the greatest challenge companies face is aligning the PR they seek with their greatest overall business objectives. But come to think of it, that's the same challenge they've been having for a very long time, so I would not say that it's new.

We sometimes open our PR clinics and presentations about "How to Stand Out in a Crowd" with a humorous photo -- a real, honest-to-goodness Internet CEO in the midst of a publicity stunt happening pretty close to Times Square. Unbeknownst to him but rather hilarious in hindsight is the fact that while he was performing that very stunt, a quiet company out of nowhere was doing its homework and working its way through the US with a story for every reporter who'd ever covered the topic that turned out to be his biggest competitive nightmare. That evening, when the "Washington Post" called him for comment he was caught flat-footed. By morning, the news about his competition had pretty well covered the world.

So -- yes, you can get attention by starting a political scandal, committing a highly visible crime or conducting a big publicity stunt, but is that really the kind of attention that will advance your business goals? With that in mind, the PR can get started. Education. Thought leadership. The kind of real-life business stories and solutions that are affecting millions of businesses and people told in a matter of fact and factual way, even with all the bumps and bruises, the way you would tell your story to a valued friend or associate. What did the solution cost? Who did I have to convince to engage it? If I had it to do again, what would I do differently in my implementation?

Think about the kinds of PR that are most closely akin to direct word of mouth. Case studies. Trend features. Reviews. Opinions and analysis from individuals who are knowledgeable and trusted on the particular topic. The locations and venues for the press should come together naturally after these key decisions are made.

Most companies think about PR as press releases that crow about great accomplishments and giant customer wins. In our opinion, the value of testimonial style PR is...not much. Make it real and find the ways to give your customers genuine due diligence and then put it in the places they can easily see.

Q2: What is the single greatest challenge facing providers of public relations services -- you and your team, and others in your business -- today?
A2: For PR providers, the landscape is changing so quickly, it's imperative that our methods keep up. For example, the SEO [search engine optimization] value in press releases and articles is imperative in ways that didn't even exist a few years ago. Our value add - the value of every organization like us - is strongly influenced by our ability to be savvy and smart and up to the minute about every PR strategy and tactic at hand. That would be our single biggest challenge.

Our next challenge, like everyone's is the fact that we are businesses and companies who are living and surviving in an extremely challenged economic environment today. We're being challenged to do more with [fewer resources]. The costs of benefits, rising taxes and availability of cash flow hits every kind of service organization especially hard. We have to be smarter than ever to surmount these challenges and continue to provide value that's up to the minute and indisputably worthwhile in every way that we can.

Q3: What do you see as the next "great leap forward" in publicity and public relations -- cultural, technological or otherwise?
A3: The next leap forward -- I actually see a number of leaps forward, but for us, one of the biggest is cultural and technology-related. Our own team is working right now on some new methods to use technology to take marketing/PR tools and savvy out through distributed companies to their dealers and deliver it to those dealers in a format they can quickly and simply interact with and use.

For example, a large public company we work with has the highest quality product in its industry sector, and enjoys solid distribution through its major retail partners. But it's greatest margins continue to come through its 380-plus dealers who are small, local companies who are excited to carry the company's products but are without a clue about how to conduct any type of PR. They have access to co-op dollars [money provided by the vendor to subsidize dealer advertising and marketing], but without the knowledge of what to do, with almost no exceptions, they let the co-op funds sit unused.

We're working on technology to deliver practical ideas to those business outlets through the devices they already use that give them ideas, templates and instructions that can practically implement themselves and produce new revenue immediately. That's both a cultural and a technology issue. Even these "down-home" local shops are now using the kinds of technology that can make this idea real and give these small and distributed businesses ways to succeed without needing a PR executive or an agency in order to grab onto the good results of PR.

An amazing number of people are receiving their information over mobile devices, and this is more than a content delivery issue. It affects every aspect of the way we influence people, the way we do business, and definitely on the kind of strategies and tactics we need for effective PR.

In spite of the challenges, there's never been a better time for PR. The field is ripe for all kinds of innovation. Stay tuned!

Dortch's Recommendations:

Cheryl knows what she's talking/writing about. If you still aren't sure, contact any of the clients listed at the Snapp Conner Web site. I've talked and worked with several of them through the years, and they uniformly think as highly of her as I do, and as you should. Do as I do whenever Cheryl offers guidance -- OBEY!! :-)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Scott Albro of Focus: the Dortch on Marketing Three-Q Interview

Scott Albro is founder and CEO of Focus, where business decision makers can get complimentary research, market analysis and community that helps them to make better purchase decisions. (In the interests of full disclosure, it's also where I'm director of research, but I'd be fan anyway, for reasons you can read here.) Scott describes himself as "Builder, Leader, Knifefighter." I figured he might have some interesting opinions about the current state and imminent future of business-to-business (B-to-B) marketing -- and I was right.

Q1: What is the greatest challenge facing modern B-to-B advertising/marketing/media companies today?
A1: How to use the Internet. Right now the Internet is good at delivering quantity, as opposed to quality. That works in consumer markets but amounts to an epic FAIL in most B-to-B markets.

Q2: What is the greatest challenge facing the clients of modern B-to-B advertising/marketing/media companies today?
A2: How to deliver something that the sales organization actually cares about. [Editorial comment: Oh, Snap!]

Q3: What is poised to be "the next big thing" In modern b-to-B advertising, marketing and/or media -- technological, cultural, financial or otherwise?
A3: We're working on it and it's a secret.

Dortch's Recommendations: is innovative, interesting and gaining traction. It is establishing a leading presence in an area many marketers know little to nothing useful about: cyberspace. Scott and his team are not the only smart people who realize this and are taking steps to address it. But they are some of the first, they're really smart, they work really hard, and they have a good head start.

If you're an advertiser or marketer trying to reach business decision makers, you should probably already be talking to Focus. If you are a business decision maker, you should be making use of the research, analysis and community at And if you're involved or interested in the evolution of business-to-business marketing and sales, you should definitely be watching Scott and the Focus team.

Monday, July 19, 2010 Crowdsourcing Done Smart

Yes, I am currently Director of Research at Focus, proud owners and nurturers of, so I'm biased. But any industry analyst, observer or pundit who says they aren't biased is lying. And any who will let their biases alone direct their analyses, observations or punditry aren't very good at what they do and should consider other endeavors. And no, Focus management did not see or know about what I've written here before I wrote or posted it. End of disclaimer. Now, for what would have been my inaugural marketing blog entry, had "Antennagate" not intervened and proven irresistible to me.)

I'm a big fan of, the pioneering provider of software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing solutions for business, and of the company's innovative corporate philanthropy. I'm also a big fan of fellow M.I.T. alumnus Peter Coffee, Director of Platform Research at and one of the software industry's most intellectually interesting and erudite spokespeople.

As evidence, I offer the recent blog entry from Peter, "The Gold in the Crowd in the Cloud." It's a cogent, interesting discussion of crowdsourcing -- using the Web and social media to throw many otherwise disconnected brains and hearts at the same challqenge or opportunity -- by and more broadly. It resonated with me not only because of the intersection of good marketing, social good and modern technologies represented by's specific efforts discussed in Peter's blog (which of course you should check on and support). I was also engaged by Peter's thoughts on crowdsourcing because I believe to be a prime example of crowdsourcing done really well.

At, anyone can ask or answer a question about almost any aspect of running a business, from human resource (HR) management to information technology (IT). Anyone can contribute content about a business-related subject in which the contributor has expertise, experience and/or strong opinions. And anyone can post comments on anything they see at the site. Content therefore tracks closely with the key concerns of the core audience, business decision makers.

Focus oversees and pays for creation of some core content deliverables, which like community-contributed content are available at no cost to whomever can use them. The Focus team also reviews all contributions and Q&A threads, to categorize them and to weed out profanity, irrelevancy and attempts at spam or hacking. Otherwise, though, it's crowdsourcing designed to provide, as the Focus tagline says, "business expertise for everyone," not just companies that can afford expensive market analyses or consulting.

And Focus monitors contributions closely, inviting frequent and well received contributors to become Focus Experts and Advisers. These people are selectively offered opportunities to contribute richer content and to participate in Focus events such as our recent complimentary and wildly successful Focus Interactive Summit, "Mastering Lead Management" (available on demand here; registration required. An open, crowdsourced, largely self-governing meritocracy.

(In case you were wondering, Focus also interviews many of the people who download content from about what they've done or are planing to do with the information, when they did it or are planning to do it, and what experiences they've had or are expecting with specific solutions and vendors. Those interviews result in high-quality marketing leads Focus sells to solution providers, to fund the free content and community at A business model so cool, it made me want to join the company a bit more than a year ago now.)

The old ways of obtaining expertise to aid critical business decisions relied largely upon expensive and unwieldy market or industry analyses and reports or expensive and complex consulting engagements, both of which I've done a lot during the past 30-plus years. That business model is unsustainable. It's too expensive and too detached from real life and real time. Crowdsourcing, when directed, managed and supported well, democratizes expertise and makes it affordable and almost immediately available. It also makes the exchange of information and value more conversational and centered around the needs and goals of users and buyers, a win for everyone in the value chain.

Don't just take my admittedly biased word for any of this, though. If you find independent endorsements compelling, "Media Business" Magazine just named a Top 10 business Web site and the sole winner in its "launch" category. (Read all about it here.) But what you should really do is visit and spend some time poking around. You don't even have to register to do that, and I think even a cursory perusal will give you a tantalizing and credible glimpse into some of what crowdsourcing is doing to transform "the wisdom of crowds" into tangible, measurable, meaningful benefits, in business and in the world at large.

Friday, July 16, 2010

iPhone 4: Apple Gets "Antennagate" Right

What is good marketing, anyway?

Well, I've said for years that good marketing must do four things -- it must engage, inform, persuade and invite. (Of course, after all of that, the entity doing the marketing must then deliver on whatever has been promised, then delight customers, partners and other stakeholders. However, those challenges are only partly under marketing's control, and therefore beyond the purview of this blog post. But I digress.)

By my lights, then, the Apple iPhone 4 antenna kerfuffle is now officially over, after Steve Jobs got up in front of the media and punditocracy and covered all four of what I consider the critical success factors of basic marketing.

Engage: Steve engaged stakeholders and observers worldwide by immediately copping to the existence of the antenna problem.

Inform: Steve told everyone watching and listening that this problem affected smartphones other than Apple's, something easy to forget or discount given all the noise about the problem centered around the iPhone 4.

Persuade: Steve showed evidence intended to prove his point. The videos showing other smartphones dropping signals may or may not have been universally convincing. However, Steve reported that only 1 iPhone 4 buyer out of every 200 had complained to Apple, and that AT&T said iPhone 4 return rates were so far only one-third those experienced with the iPhone 3GS. Pretty persuasive little factoids.

Invite: Here's where Steve got it most right. Since the argument is that so-called "bumper" cases that wrap around the rim of the iPhone help to solve the problem, everyone who wants one gets a free bumper case from Apple through September 30. Everyone who's already bought one gets a refund. And everyone who's still cranky can just return their phone for a full refund. Problem solved. Mission accomplished. Let's move on.

Now, Apple is not known for rapid-response news conferences. The company's media events are almost always supremely well orchestrated, in part because they're planned fairly far in advance. Today's news conference was arranged rapidly and not nearly as flashy as, say, most Apple new product announcements. However, I think Apple covered its bases well and struck the right balance between culpability and resolution. In many ways, "Antennagate" and Apple's response represent a textbook example of how marketing people should respond to sudden, unexpected threats to a company's brand or reputation.

Bonus recommendation #1: You may have noticed that I referred to it as a "news conference," and not a "press conference." Similarly, I strongly prefer "news release" to "press release." Minor semantic points, to be sure. However, they keep the focus on the news -- as in, if there ain't no real news, there should be no release or event. I'm just sayin'...

Bonus recommendation #2: has some really good recent research and analysis related to Apple, the iPad and the iPhone. I particularly recommend:
+ "The Apple Roadmap: What Steve Jobs Doesn't Want Microsoft to Figure Out," a great Focus Brief by Focus Expert Colin Bhowmik; and
+ "No Flash? No Problem -- 3 Work-Arounds for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch," by yours truly.